Starting a new job and worrying about passing probation is stressful enough. But what happens if you find out you’re pregnant during probation?
First of all, don’t worry. Pregnancy is a protected characteristic under UK employment law, giving expectant mothers protection from from day one of employment. You can’t be dismissed or disadvantaged because you’re expecting a baby.
You might feel concerned that may not have access to maternity leave and pay. However, a pregnancy during probation does not mean your statutory rights can be removed.
If you’ve recently discovered you are pregnant during your probationary period, and need to know your rights, our guide will help you understand your entitlements. We’ll also help you tackle how and when to share your baby news with your employer.
Pregnancy Rights During Probation Periods
There are strong protections within UK employment law to stop pregnant women being discriminated against at work.
Here are the rights you have if you get pregnant during your probation period:-
From the very first day you start a new job, you have the right to take up to 52 weeks maternity leave, and return to your role afterwards.
This means you can get maternity leave during your probation period, even if you’ve only been with the employer for a very short period of time.
You will be entitled to maternity pay during probation. The type of maternity pay you qualify for will depend on how long you have been with your employer.
Statutory Maternity Pay
To qualify for statutory maternity pay, you need to have been working for your employer continuously for 26 weeks before your “qualifying week”.
This date is the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth (due date).
As a rule of thumb, this means you should be entitled to statutory maternity pay if you got pregnant when working for your current employer. If you only discovered your pregnancy after starting your new role, you may qualify for other support.
If you don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay, you can claim maternity allowance.
This is a benefit which is available to working women who do not qualify for statutory maternity pay.
Time Off Work for Ante Natal Appointments
If you need time off work to attend medical appointments relating to your pregnancy, this should be given as paid time off.
Having to go to ante natal appointments should not result in action being taken against you for absences or poor performance.
Pregnancy Discrimination During Probation
All pregnant employees are strongly protected against discrimination in the workplace. If your employer tries to dismiss you because you are pregnant, this will leave them open to a claim at employment tribunal.
If you are pregnant during your probation period, your employer should not treat you unfairly due to your pregnancy.
You are protected against your employer doing any of the following because of your pregnancy:-
- Refusing to extend your contract after probation.
- Selecting you for redundancy.
- Excluding you from promotion or training opportunities.
- Reducing your pay or working hours.
- Putting you under pressure to resign.
More at maternityaction.org
How Your Employer Should Deal With Your Probation During Pregnancy
What will happen with your probation period if you need to take maternity leave? First of all, check your contract of employment to see what it says about extending probation periods.
Some contracts of employment will have specific clauses about whether your employer has the right to extend your probation period.
Look to see if anything specific is mentioned about how any absences will be dealt with during probation. This will help you understand how your employer is likely to deal with you being off on maternity leave if you do not pass probation beforehand.
You may be able to bring a discrimination claim against your employer if they do not pass your probation, or offer an extension to give you time to prove yourself capable of the role. For example, if you are on maternity leave and they inform you that probation has not been passed without offering to extend probation.
What to Do if You Are Discriminated Against
If you have been told that you have failed your probation and are pregnant, or you’ve been told you aren’t entitled to maternity leave or pay, you should seek further advice.
The following organisations will be able to offer support about what you should do next:-
- Maternity Action
- Working Families
- Pregnant Then Screwed
- Our guide on unfair dismissal in probation has general guidance about your rights.
- You can read more on being sacked in a probation period in our detailed article.